The voice of Amanda

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La La Land

Movies are meant to catch you in the feels. I watched La La Land last night, and it did that and more. It rang with the nostalgia of the bygone glory days of jazz and musicals, two things I’m immediately all about. It also reminded me of my streak of dating musicians based out of Los Angeles. 

Ever watch something and it’s almost not enjoyable because it’s too true? The element of escapism vanishes because you’re just watching scenes from your own life? Thankfully the beautiful musical numbers saved me from that, but the conversations could have been taken verbatim from my past. “You’re touring? For how long?” 

The conversations between Sebastian and Mia echoed those I had with a former flame, an incredibly talented jazz musician who prompted me to move to Los Angeles in the first place. His career was growing and I didn’t know where I fit. I was happy for his success but left feeling forgotten and a bit jealous as an artist, too. Was I surprised to see his name roll on the credits of the movie? Not completely. It seemed fitting. The ending of the movie seemed fitting. My ex has had a great career. I saw he did numerous performances with Michael Buble and has toured internationally. He is living his dream. 

And do you know what? I am so happy for him, but thankful we were not together for it. I am glad I have forged my own path and done some incredible things in my career that I know I would have ignored had I been focused on our separation while he toured. I’m far from perfect, and so was he, but in the end I’m proud of his achievements and proud of myself for mine. 

I cried hard during the credits because it all resonated. It wasn’t a sad cry. Plus the girls next to me lightened the mood after I exclaimed “of course my ex worked on this movie!” And they replied “fuck him!” I’m not angry, nor sad, or anything negative. Perhaps wistful is the word. We always wonder what could have been, but I know I made the right choice in leaving. 

I sent him a text to let him know I saw the movie and his name, I hope he is happy and well, etc. To me, it was the smile at the end of the film. It was acknowledging what was and is, and allowing a brief montage of the “if” before we both continue our true existence. 

The ending is only sad if you let it be. 


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Playlist for my past

This month has gotten me thinking about the way life changes, seemingly at a more rapid pace each year. Yesterday would have marked my 9 year wedding anniversary, had I chosen to stay married. The end of this month also marks two years since the death of an ex boyfriend. So much has changed in my 20s and I created a playlist that took me on an emotional journey through some of these experiences and relationships. I’ll go back to the beginning of sorts, my first real relationship- my ex husband.

Secret Garden by Bruce Springsteen

Michael said this song made him think of me. To this day certain elements of it hold true. I still give away certain things too easily, but I closely guard my real emotions and trust.

Somehow Someday by Ryan Adams

The longing and nostalgia of this song, questioning what might have gone differently, really summed up my feelings after the divorce. I was a child in many ways and I know it was good I set out on my own, but what would have happened if I had stuck it out? Would we have a house? Kids? I think one of the parts that strikes me the most is the line “There ain’t no way I’ll ever stop from loving you now.” As I grow further away from that time in my life, I know that I don’t have any of that same love for Michael. He has a special place in my memory, but love for him has faded into a vague wisp, like a familiar cologne wafting by out of the blue.

We looked like Giants by Death Cab for Cutie

Morgan was an easy substitution as I made my way past marriage. He was intelligent and attractive, though not very socially adept. I struggled to gain approval and a place in his life. During quiet moments in his room we would take a break from the alternative rock that he loved so much and listen to Transatlanticism. This song became synonymous with my brief romance and the attempt at being a normal 21 year old.

I went a little wild after Morgan, before falling head over heels for Nick.

You Make it Easy by Air/ Here in My Room by Incubus

The intense attraction and attention that Nick bestowed upon me felt like the “real deal.” We acted silly, we would kiss each other as much as we wanted. We both were so desperate to make the other person better while completely distrusting one another because of our pasts. It was an obsessive love that was clearly doomed to fail. Even so, I remember him making me a cd with these songs and telling me how crazy he was about me. That warm glow of adoration infused me like a drug and I needed more. When we broke up I was devastated and spent the next year alternating between love and hate for him. I’d get a taste of him, then cower in my bed, shaking like an addict going through withdrawals. As the years have progressed, we are now able to talk to one another without searching for hidden signals or any lingering animosity. Time does heal.

Lover, You Should Have Come Over by Jeff Buckley

I have a feeling that this song will always make me a little sad, will always make me think of how things could have gone differently for Travis. From the first weeks of our relationship, it was clear that Travis carried some baggage. He had never forgiven himself for a night back in high school when his best friend died in a car crash (strangely enough, my parents were the first to come across this same crash and saw his friend thrown from the car. Small towns, you know). Travis was verbally and physically abusive, he drank and took pills, he would sneak out at four in the morning and not return until the next day sometimes…but I still saw the beautiful qualities as well. He liked art. He was passionate about the affect of music in his life. He was very intelligent and well spoken, able to express his perception of life so eloquently (if he was sober).

We ended with me calling the police to take him from my house. I still knew he was around because he would leave me his version of love notes- a new form of vandalism for my car every week. I ended up moving to California a few months after we broke up. So did he, but he had joined a rehab program in San Francisco. I would ignore his calls until one day I didn’t recognize the number. He apologized for everything and I knew I forgave him.

The last time we spoke he was asking about this song by Jeff Buckley. In our better times we would light candles and play Grace in its entirety. Travis sounded weary and we both hesitated to end the conversation. About two months later I received a call from Nick (once again, small town) and he told me that Travis was dead. I played this song on repeat and cried, feeling like I would never be okay. “Lover, you should have come over. It’s not too late.” I knew I was too late, but how could I have ever saved him?

Amanda/Every time we say goodbye by Graham Dechter

Well, this one is easy- the intro was written for me. Graham holds a special place for me because he is the reason I moved back to California. He helped me to make a move with my life that I don’t know I would have gone through if I had been alone. He was also the first person to show me how an affluent family live their lives and ways to fit in in SoCal. That might sound absurd, but his family introduced me to a different perspective that has been quite valuable. They were the first family I had in my new home.

Won’t You Come Home by Devendra Banhart/ Go Home by Lucius

David is my second longest relationship besides my ex husband. I thought we would get married. I ached so much for him to love me more than his band, but I felt like I could never compete. I know that it wasn’t so much me versus his band, but me taking time and energy from his dream. Since he was constantly touring, we never saw each other and I began to feel like he was this mythic phantom boyfriend. Somehow I knew things were done, but I clung to the idea of forever. Devendra Banhart has the line “Why don’t you want to stay here suspended/in the dead arms of a year that has ended.” This completely summed up my feelings.

The day after David and I broke up, I found out I was pregnant. Timing is HILARIOUS. Not only was I hormonal and upset from a long relationship ending, but I now had to figure out by myself what to do with a potential human. David said he didn’t want any part of it, that it was “my thing.” I went to appointments by myself. I would cry in the bathroom at work. I would enjoy the words from this song by Lucius- “I don’t need you anyway, I don’t need you, go home,” somehow seeing the dual realities of vulnerability and found strength. I had a miscarriage, once again giving me the dual feelings of relief and anguish. David was a huge part of my life, but I think of this as my experience, my story. I began to see how I could break out of the cycle of constantly needing to be validated by a relationship.

We No Who U R by Nick Cave

I took comfort after David with Tommy, a kind and generous friend five years my junior. As we began our relationship, Tommy would play his Nick Cave record as the clouds hung silently on the LA winter morning. The deep, rough voice cut through my mind, supplanting my love for David and bestowing it upon this gentle, handsome guy who happily held my hand and made me breakfast each morning. Everything about him screamed “Mr Right,” but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. We recently broke up, giving me one of the first real opportunities to have freedom in my 20s.

Wide Eyes by Local Natives

“Oh to see it with my own eyes.” I feel this lightness as I end my playlist with a song for me. I’m about 99% sure this song is about acid, but it still resonates with my life shift and new perspective. I want to see the world through my own eyes. I want to make decisions that are just for me. I want to learn more about myself and continue to find value in who I am rather than just what I can do for others.

I love that these songs bring me back. At one point they might have been too much to bear, overwhelming me with feelings and no understanding of how to deal. Now this playlist is a gentle river ride down memory lane rather than the sinking ship in an emotional storm.